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I get asked about 4 times a week if I know where there’s any work for freelance writers. The truth is that the last year has been awful, and I’ve said more about AI on the fiction side than the freelancing side over the last year. For authors, AI is great. For freelancers, AI is terrible. It’s completely decimated the industry, and there is very little to no work. If you’re thinking about becoming a freelance writer, this isn’t 2008, 2009, 2010. The work has all but been gutted. I can’t even recommend it anywhere because I haven’t seen any work. Anywhere. There is no significant amount of work anywhere.

How Much Did the Freelance Writer’s Income Drop?

Every freelance writer I know has lost clients, and they can’t seem to replace them. Keep in mind that a successful freelance writer has anywhere from 6 to 10 regular clients after 6-7 years of working in the industry, and the lion's share of their monthly income is those 6 to 10 clients. Then, they were able to pick up 4 or 5 more articles for whatever extra money they needed, if they had the time.

Most of the writers I know have lost between 60 and 75 percent of their income over the last year. That’s like going from $2,000 to $500 or $600 per month. I personally lost 56 percent of mine. I lost one huge client and couple of smaller ones, and the random work doesn’t really exist either.

This didn’t happen immediately. In fact, most of us were able to make more money in the first 2 to 4 months of 2023 because we were able to grab more and work faster and more efficiently while turning out the same or higher-quality content. And it’s that extra money that got us through...say… July. By July, things were really bad. This is where the messages really started. Where can I find work? I lost a major client this week? Does anyone know where there’s any work? Is anyone on X platform? Do you see any work? Have you seen any work from X client? The answers were always no or a limited, I still have my regular client there. CLIENT. Meaning, they only ever had one, or they have one left on that particular platform.

Some of Us Saw the Writing on the Wall

Some of us saw the writing on the wall and started looking for new jobs, clients, agencies. I personally started applying for agency jobs at the end of 2022. That was a no-go. If it wasn’t a scammer it was a ghoster or companies who weren’t really interested in hiring anyone. They just wanted to see who was out there. So, basically, this is the time where they’re going – HIRING IS BOOMING, and every job seeker I talk to is going – There’s no hiring going on. I can’t find a job. Well, you know who I believe. So the job market was trash, but I kept looking and applying.

Where Did the Freelancers Go?

The really lucky ones found jobs with agencies. Those guys are still in the industry, and they’re fine. Some people went back to what they were doing prior to becoming a full-time writer. Some of them went back to waitressing. Some went back into retail. Some are now driving for places like Instacart, Uber and Shipt. I lucked out and found a private client that makes up about 30% of the income I lost due to AI. If I lost that client, I’d be going back into retail because the work outlook for freelance writing is that bad, and I’ve been doing this for almost 15 years. So, I don’t have any work references. My work reference is my own business, and this is most freelancers. And since the majority of freelancers are sole proprietors, they are their own job references. As you can imagine, the traditional job industry doesn’t like that. HOW DARE YOU HAVE NO REFERENCES CAUSE YOU OWN A BUSINESS! Mmmhhmmm…

What Else Are the Freelancers Doing?

Some of them diversified a long time ago. Some of them also do images or voiceovers. Some of them make videos (AI is about to take that too.) Some of them sell jewelry or make hand-crafted items, and some of them, like me, also write novels. So, they’re also upping their game on their side businesses or hobbies, and some of them have been able to do well there. I’m also back to seriously plugging all my novels, and that has shown some improvement.

The bottom line is that if you’re a freelancer or thinking about writing for a living, it’s grim. Don’t quit your day job, and if you do anything else, do that first. It got so bad for me in the fall of 2023 that I ate nothing but food pantry food for three months, and by the fall, I usually have my winter money saved up. I have $2,000 - $3,000 to get me through the slowest parts of winter and the GIMME GIMME utility companies that start acting like screaming toddlers in the checkout lane cause they absolutely have to have that candy bar, and they’re going to scream and cry until they get their candy bar! I had none of that going into winter, so I had to take a different route. I made it. I think. There are still 3 to 4 weeks left before the normal work pick-up.

It’s been one of the diciest winters I’ve ever seen, and even a year later. Slightly more than, and AI isn’t finished finaling jobs. Freelancers were just the first to get hit. Along with customer service agents, and most of these companies are talking about both sides of their mouths. They condemn the use of AI for you, but they’re using AI to write their own articles, handle customer service, perform their business processes… The list goes on and on. And then once they're happy with AI’s performance, you get fired. So that’s the state of the freelancing industry. It’s been decimated, and so far, it hasn’t bounced back.